MAMA, I’M A BIG GIRL NOW

So much for versus. Nature and nurture teamed up against Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe). The African-American teen is not only morbidly obese; she lives in an abusive Harlem home. I won’t go into details as to how un-precious her life is. To do so would be to rob you of the movie’s initial power. I didn’t know when I sat my ass down and watched. My reaction: eye brows yanked up!

To the movie’s credit, “Precious” neither sensationalizes the subject nor overtly jerks the heartstrings. Director Lee Daniels smartly grounds his story despite some extreme scenarios. His choice to de-glamour his actors has an impact of a special effect. You have to do a double take to recognize Sherri Sheppard, Leni Kravitz, and Mariah Carey. But let’s not get nuts here. The movie is not a game of “let’s spot the famous people.” The method is to simply ditch the star baggage and make us buy their characters. You know what – it works.

For a deeper transformation though, we look at the bound-to-be-nominated actresses. Gabourey Sidibe in the leading role is a heartbreaking newcomer. I expected to be wowed from the start due to critical buzz. However, this is a movie with its own pace, not wanting to throw Precious too heavily on the viewer. The character is not approachable. She fills the screen as a massive unruly figure that smacks her classmates in the back of the head. But she grows on you as the film delves deeper into her psyche. And it is thanks to Sidibe’s attuned performance that Precious slowly earns our respect and support.

The real revelation though is Mo’Nique as Precious’ controlling mother. And believe the buzz, her imposing presence is felt from the get-go. Mo’Nique travels a far spectrum of mindset to go from a sassy comic to a cold-blooded personification of hate. Being a monstrous villain should earn the comedian a nomination. But that final scene, oh man, that final scene should win her the Oscar.

Those last moments are so precious. Mo’Nique loses herself in the role and gets all the tricky nuances of flabbergasted emotions. I feel illiterate in my attempt to spell out the scene. It was spectacular, disgusting, heart wrenching, disturbing, and confounding … yet it came across familiar and clear emotionally.

The beauty of “Precious” is that it arrives at the gritty truth so acutely. Yes, the film handles heavy material, but the approach is not so heavy-handed. In the end, “Precious” becomes an uplifting, inspirational film. More importantly, it should shut the gobs of those who whine about life being unfair. Big deal! The world has misfortunes galore. Be proud. Be strong. Be big. Nurture what nature has given you.

Grade: A

CAST
Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Mo’Nique, Mariah Carey, Sherri Shepherd, Lenny Kravitz, and Paula Patton
Based on the novel “Push” by
Sapphire
Written by
Geoffrey Fletcher
Directed by
Lee Daniels
Rated R for child abuse, including sexual assault, and pervasive language
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